Whether you’re a student, a professional or just want to stay connected and productive, a laptop is one of the most important tools of the trade. But some are better than others, with excellent displays, keyboards, designs and battery life. If you’re looking for a powerful laptop that easily fits in your bag and doesn’t break your back, you're looking for what some call an "ultrabook."
The “ultrabook” moniker was originally coined by Intel in 2012 and used to refer to a set of premium, super-thin laptops that met the chipmaker’s predefined standards. Much of this occurred as the PC world was first catching up to the original MacBook Air. However, just as many people refer to tissues as Kleenexes or web searching as Googling, the term ultrabook commonly refers to any premium ultraportable laptop, whether it carries Intel’s seal of approval or not. These days, Intel tends to use its Evo standard to label its top ultrabooks, and you'll often see the name on sticker badges alongside Core i5 or i7.
Of course, there's always new tech coming down the pipe. Intel's most recent chips are its 13th Gen "Raptor Lake" chips. Those are broken into 28-watt P-series chips for performance and 15-watt U-series for the slimmest designs. and we expect to see notebooks with those chips in the coming months. AMD's Ryzen 7000 series chips will compete with Intel with its own U-series. ranging from 15 to 28 watts depdning on on the model.
On Macs, Apple's top chip are the M2 series. The standard M2 can be found which you can find in the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. We checked out the M2 Pro and M2 Max in the 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros.
The Windows-based picks on this list should be ready to run Windows 11. You can find the system requirements for Windows 11 here. That being said, it's getting less and less likely you'll buy a new laptop with Windows 10. Most PCs are coming out of the box with the new operating system.
Quick Ultrabook / Premium Laptop Shopping Tips
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- Get a good keyboard: Whether you’re using an ultrabook to browse the web, send emails, code, write or do other productivity work, the keyboard is one of your primary ways of interacting with your computer. Get something with responsive keys that aren’t mushy. Low-travel is ok if the keys have the right feel to them, but the last thing you want to do is “bottom out” while typing.
- Consider what you need in a screen: At a minimum, your laptop should have a 1920 x 1080 screen. Some laptops offer 4K options, though it’s sometimes harder to see the difference at 13-inches or below. While 4K may be more detailed, 1080p screens give you much longer battery life. OLED screens are becoming far more common on laptops, with deep blacks and bright colors, but often at the cost of battery life. Many laptop screens still use a 16:9 aspect ratio, but consider 16:10 or 3:2 if you want a taller screen that shows more of your work at a time.
- Some laptops can be upgraded: While CPUs and GPUs are almost always soldered down, some laptops let you replace the RAM and storage, so you can buy cheaper now and add more memory and a bigger hard drive or SSD down the road. But the thinnest laptops may not have that option, so buy with the future in mind.
- Battery life is important: Aim for something that lasts for 8 hours or longer on a charge (gaming is an exception) at a bare minimum. For productivity, many laptops easily surpass this number, so 10 hours would be even better. But be wary of manufacturer claims, which don’t always use strenuous tests. Some laptops are starting to add fast charging, which is a nice bonus that tops you off more quickly.
Best Ultrabooks and Premium Laptops You Can Buy Today
Classy and capable, the HP Spectre x360 13.5 is the premier convertible 2-in-1 right now. It offers both Thunderbolt (USB Type-C) and USB-A ports, as well as a colorful OLED screen and high-resolution webcam.
I'm still a fan of the design, which is mature but luxurious. We tested it with a black aluminum using copper accents, though silver and blue options are available as well.
HP is using a 15W Intel Core U-series processor here, but we didn't see the Spectre missing out on performance, beating a 28W rival in Geekbench and Handbrake.
The stylus, which comes included with the Spectre, now attached to the side of the display, similar to Microsoft's Surface, making for a familiar and easy-to-reach location whether you use the device as a laptop or a tablet.
Read: HP Spectre x360 13.5 review
The Lenovo Yoga 9i (Gen 7) is a 14-inch 2-in-1 with an attractive, portable design, a bright display and a mix of ports. Its rounded corners aren't just about form, they make it comfortable to use, and still leave from for Thunderbolt 4 and USB Type-A.
If you opt for a model with an OLED display, like the one we tested, you'll get a right, 16:10 screen that measured 352 nits on our light meter. It also has support for Dolby Vision. I would have liked to see a 3:2 display, which is taller and shows more work, but this is still a bright, vivid display.
Intel's Core i7-1260P showed off with high scores on our performance benchmarks, and the 1TB SSD offered blazing fast SSD speeds.
And if you want solid sound in both laptop and tablet modes, we appreciated Lenovo's 360-degree sound bar that got plenty loud in either posture.
Read: Lenovo Yoga 9i (Gen 7, 14-inch) review
The MacBook Air with M2 is arguably Apple's biggest change to the lineup since it launched, eschewing the historical wedge design for a thinner, flatter look. It's the first MacBook Air to be designed for Apple Silicon, and it sure makes a statement.
But there are a slew of other important changes. The M2 chip is powerful and long-lasting; the display is bright and vivid; MagSafe, the magnetic power connector, has returned; and there's a 1080p webcam, which is a huge improvement, though it's in a notch.
It's a fanless design, so those doing intensive work like video editing or rendering will need to keep that in mind. But for most documents, spreadsheets and even basic photo editing, it does the job just fine.
Read: MacBook Air (M2) review
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Apple's second-generation MacBook Pros on Apple Silicon haven't made too many changes on the outside, but offer more performance and longer battery life. It retains the wide variety of ports, including HDMI and an SD card slot, that we loved last year, as well as a bright, vivid Mini-LED display.
With an M2 Pro, the 14-inch MacBook Pro lasted over 14 hours on our batter test, showing off the efficiency Apple can achieve with its own silicon. Apple has also added a few new features, like Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3 and improved HDMI.
While the design hasn't changed, that means you also get excellent speakers and a comfortable keyboard with full-size function keys. But it also means that there's still a notch in the display to hold the 1080p webcam, which some might find to be distracting.
For those who need more graphics power, you may want to step up to the M2 Max, with up to 38 graphics cores. If you want more battery life, the 16-inch MacBook Pro has a larger battery (100 WHr vs the 14-incher MacBook Pro's 70 WHr), and endured for just shy of 19 hours on our test. If you simply prefer a bigger screen, the 16-inch MacBook Pro may also be for you, and you can get it with either an M2 Pro or M2 Max.
Read: MacBook Pro (2023) review
You don't have to spend over $1,000 to get a good clamshell notebook. The HP Pavilion can get you the latest Intel processor, 16GB of RAM of a 90 Hz, 2880 x 1800 OLED display. You can go lower for the same design, but with a Core i5, 8GB of RAM and a non-OLED screen.
We liked the Pavilion for its great port selection, lovely screen and strong performance, all at a value price. The battery life could use some work, but we tested with OLED, and that sucks up battery.
The ports include two USB Type-C ports, two USB Type-A ports, HDMI, a headphone jack and a microSD card reader.
The laptop is made from a mix of aluminum and plastic, giving you a bit of the premium feel you get in more expensive notebooks, even if the design is a bit bland.
Read: HP Pavilion Plus review
The MSI GE76 Raider is our pick for a gaming laptop that can replace your desktop. And yes, it has a massive RGB light bar. It offers seriously strong performance with components ranging up to an Intel Core i9-11980HK and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080.
The 17.3-inch display is bright and goes up to 360 Hz, for those who want to play esports titles like Dota 2 or League of Legends as smoothly as possible.
But unlike many of the other laptops on this list, the Raider is not thin. In fact, it's quite large, but you need that for all of the power inside (and for the 17.3-inch build quality). If you want something smaller, the GE66 Raider, our former pick for this spot, which we reviewed last year, has also been updated to more recent parts.
Read: MSI GE76 Raider Review
HP has built the modern work laptop. The Elite Dragonfly Gen 3 is light, stylish, with a tall 3:2 display and a long-lasting battery that lasted 14 hours on our tests.
The Gen 3 drops the 2-in-1 design, so if you're married to your stylus, you might want to look elsewhere. But HP has taken great advantage of the space on the chassis, including two Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI 2.0, a headphone jack and even a USB Type-A port with a drop-jaw hinge. For business users, that last port is still key for tons of peripherals and external storage.
HP has opted to use Intel's 12th Gen U series chips, which means you don't get the best performance, but for most white-collar needs, it should get the job done. It is also likely a contributor to the long battery life.
The one catch? It's pricey. We've seen the price fluctuating, but if you can get your job to get one for you, that may be the best way to go.
Read: HP Elite Dragonfly G3 review
With the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13, the company has taken a more modern approach to the business laptop. The Z13 still has the ethos of a ThinkPad, is unmistakably meant to be one, but with the option for a faux leather lid, classy bronze accents and a haptic touchpad, it feels like a leap forward in design.
We also got just under 14 hours of battery life with the 1920 x 1200 display, which means you can easily get through a day of work.
Lenovo is utilizing AMD's Ryzen Pro CPUs, including an exclusive AMD Ryzen 6860Z, though the main difference between that and the 6850U we tested is a fractional difference in clock speeds. It runs most tasks well, though Intel's 12th gen chips still win out in some areas.
One thing business users may have to get used to is a change in ports, focusing exclusively on USB 4 Type-C and a headphone jack. But otherwise it's a solidly built, easily portable machine that will turn heads.
Read: Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 review
Asus has begun to refine the dual screen laptop. Sure, there's a more powerful version, but for a laptop with two screens, this one is fairly light, and ran for over 10 and a half hours on a charge.
Windows 10 doesn't yet natively support dual screen software, Asus's ScreenPad Plus launcher has improved since launch, with easy flicks and drags to move apps around the display. For Adobe apps, there's custom dial-based software.
The keyboard and mouse placement are the big compromises, as there isn't a wrist rest and they can feel cramped. But if you want two-screens, this is as good as it gets for now.
Read: Asus ZenBook Duo 14 UX482 review
The Dell XPS 17 (9720) is our favorite laptop that's slim but still has a big, 17-inch screen. This one goes up to 3840 x 2400 (the way we tested it) with support for touch and a 16:10 aspect ratio to show more spreadsheets or documents. It's made all the more impressive by the minimal bezel, which really highlights whatever is on the display.
We tested the XPS 17 with an Intel Core i7-12700H and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, though Dell does offer Intel's Core i9-12900H on limited configurations. If you want to save some money, you can get integrated graphics or a cheaper RTX 3050.
Dell's design here is impeccable, though you only get the same ports as the smaller XPS 15, including four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and an SD card reader. A USB Type-A port would have been nice for the creatives likely to flock to this laptop.
But the gorgeous display and strong construction wow us, and a dongle can't do much to change that.
Read: Dell XPS 17 (9720) Review
With the Surface Pro 9, Microsoft is offering Intel and Arm options in the same chassis. Either way, you get a sleek, rounded tablet with thin bezels and anodized aluminum (though the Intel model comes in fun colors while the Arm version comes only in platinum).
We think that people focused on the best performance will prefer the Intel models, which start a bit cheaper and, in most cases, offer better performance than Microsoft's SQ3 chip. They also have better app compatibility, as you don't require any emulation.
If you want 5G, though, the SQ3 version is the one to get, but that and just a slight battery life advantage are the big things that it offers.
The Pro 9 doesn't differ from its predecessors in huge ways, but still, its the flagship Windows tablet for a reason. It continues to be expensive, though, as the keyboards are sold separately, adding a cost of $139.99 for the basic keyboard and going higher if you want premium materials or a charging cradle for a stylus.
Read: Microsoft Surface Pro 9 Review
|*Up to||CPU||GPU||RAM||Storage||Display (inches)|
|HP Spectre x360 14||Core i7-1165G7*||Iris Xe (integrated)||16GB LPDDR4-3733*||2TB*||13.5, 2000p|
|Dell XPS 13 (9310)||Core i7-1165G7*||Iris Xe (integrated)||16GB LPDDR4x-4276*||512GB*||13.4 touch, 1200p|
|MacBook Pro (16-inch)||Apple M1||8-core GPU on SOC||16GB LPDDR4X-4266*||2TB*||13, 1600p|
|Microsoft Surface Laptop 4||Ryzen 7 4980U* or Core i7-1185G||Radeon or Iris Xe (integrated)||32GB LPDDR4x*||1TB*||15 touch, 1664p|
|MSI GE66 Raider||Core i9-10980HK||RTX 2080 Super Max-Q||32GB DDR4-3200*||1TB||15.6, 1080p|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 9)||Core i7-1165G7*||Iris Xe (integrated)||32GB LPDDR4x-4266*||1TB||14 touch, 1920p|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano||Core i7-1160G7*||Iris Xe (integrated)||16GB LPDDR4x-4266*||1TB||13 touch,1350p|
|Asus ZenBook Duo UX481||Core i7-10510U*||MX250||16GB DDR3*||1TB||14, 1080p|
|Dell XPS 17||Core i7-12700H||RTX 3060||32GB DDR5||1TB||17 touch, 2400p|
|Microsoft Surface Pro 9||Core i7-1255U||Iris Xe (integrated)||16GB LPDDR4x-2092||512GB||13,1920p, 120 Hz|
Finding Discounts on the Best Ultrabooks
Whether you're shopping for one of the best ultrabooks or a laptop didn't quite make our list, you may find savings by checking out our lists of the latest Dell coupon codes, HP coupon codes, Lenovo coupon codes, Best Buy promo codes or Newegg promo codes.
This article actually highlights a true embarrassment for Dell, HP and Apple. They have known since long that AMD would offer Zen2-based mobile CPU with an expected much superior performance compared to Intel. Still all three missed the train by launching new high-end models with only Intel CPU.
I'm typing this from a Dell XPS 15 2019 edition with i7 9750H, while my personal new laptop is a 4800U Asus TUF.
It's not even funny. The XPS 15 has a fantastic wide gamut screen, and performance is atrocious. Sure the boost is amazing on paper for the few seconds it can run until thermal limits are hit and the machine throttles down. After 1 year, the keyboard actually bent slightly near the trackpad with the heat and the battery inflated. A replacement was needed. It wasn't an isolated case either - a cursory search for such will reveal lots of angry Dell customers. Luckily the company contract covers it.
Intel just cannot compete, period. The 4800U performance, battery life, expandability, 2x NVME SSDs, 1x SATA SSD or HDD. Sure the screen gamut won't even cover 100% sRGB, but for that you can find better units from Lenovo, and the Asus G14 with the 4900U, just to name a few.
The offers displayed in the article are great if you can get them at 30-50% of their sale price.
In technical merit alone, well, it'll clearly take a bit of time for Intel to catch up. Let's hope they do though, lest AMD "pull an Intel", stop innovating and start charging an arm and a leg for Ryzen rehashes for 5 years.
Intel - Premium, Ultrabook, High End
AMD - Another Marketing Deception - basement level, last years models, bargain bin
Wonder why such performance isn't found neither on premium laptops nor ultrabooks. Premium means lousy now ?
It is quite sad that for their consumer products HP, Dell, etc... not putting AMD CPUs in their top of the line designs. However, for us consumers we end up getting superior performance for less cost, see the $649 Acer Swift 3. The biggest issue with that laptop is the screen isn't the best and it could use a better thermal solution, however, you get better CPU & iGPU performance than the i7-1065G7.
He is not saying he sees it that way. The big spenders in corparation know nothing. They see Intel and they think is it what they want.
They are just stupid.